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Before Historic City Council Vote on Paid Sick Days Bill, Advocates, Workers, & Elected Officials Hail Major Progressive Legislation for NYC

With Veto-Proof Majority of Support in City Council, Bill Will Bring Paid Sick Days to Nearly 1 Million New Yorkers

New York, NY

Paid sick days advocates, workers without paid sick days, and City Council members gathered for a rally and press conference on City Hall Steps Wednesday to mark the Council’s historic vote to bring paid sick days to New York City.

Following an agreement reached between paid sick days advocates, Council Member and lead bill sponsor Gale Brewer, and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn on March 28, the City Council will hold a vote on the bill, known as the New York City Earned Sick Time Act, at the City Council Stated meeting later today. The bill has a veto-proof majority of support among City Council members.

Advocates, workers, and elected officials hailed the bill as a major piece of progressive legislation and a huge victory for New York City.

“People who are sick or who need to care for a loved one should be able to take time off without the fear of losing their job or not having money to pay the bills. At the same time, we can’t ignore the harsh realities that small businesses face, and we need to protect their interests as well. This bill strikes that important balance,” said City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “This legislation fully recognizes the importance of protecting the city’s economy and locks in protections to ensure that its implementation is pegged to continued recovery. I again want to thank my Council colleagues, Council Member Gale Brewer, The Paid Sick Days Coalition and especially Hector Figueroa of SEIU 32BJ for coming together to forge this agreement that will make a positive impact on the lives of New Yorkers.”

“After 4 years of non-stop advocacy and coalition building, I want to thank the Paid Sick Days Coalition members and my Council colleagues with all my heart for supporting PST Intro 97-A, and never giving up. I also extend my thanks to Speaker Quinn and her staff for their contributions to this legislation and their many hours of hard work,” said Council Member and lead bill sponsor Gale A. Brewer. “Approximately one million New Yorkers will now have the fundamental right to a paid day off when they or a family member falls ill, and no worker will be fired if they must stay home. This is a tremendous accomplishment of which all fair-minded New Yorkers can be proud.”

“The argument over PST was always about common sense and fairness. I believe this law enshrines the principle that American exceptionalism is not just about large profits and small elites, but a workplace that is safe, fair, and respectful of the lives of workers,” Brewer continued. “As many historians have noted, when workers get to share in the prosperity they create, everyone benefits. Workers who have an incentive to invest themselves in their jobs will remain loyal and be better employees. PST rewards these qualities. Today’s vote projects a positive message to all New Yorkers that this government of the people is not only about those who have everything, but that each of us has a right to benefits created by the labor of all.”

“For three years, I have been working with my colleagues in government and the local community to help this legislation come to fruition,” said Council Member Julissa Ferreras. “The agreement reached in the Paid Sick Time Legislation is a monumental victory for our City. For the first time in our history, nearly one million workers who are seeking to care for themselves or their children will no longer be afraid they might get fired if they take a sick day. This will greatly enhance the quality of life for the hundreds of immigrants and hard-working single mothers living and working in my district. I applaud Council Member Brewer, Council Speaker Quinn and the tireless advocates who worked so hard to make this historic moment happen.”

“The difference between having paid sick days and not is huge for the working people of New York City. Paid sick days protect our health, are smart for business, and make our healthcare system more effective. Thank you to Speaker Quinn, Council Member Brewer, and my colleagues for passing this important legislation. Today is a major victory for the workers who for too long have had to choose between their health and their livelihood,” said Council Member Stephen Levin.

“This vote marks a big step in the right direction toward providing paid sick time to workers in our city. I commend the many advocates who have fought so hard to improve the lives of workers and their families through this bill. As this legislation is voted upon, we reaffirm our commitment to protecting and improving the basic rights of all workers here in New York City,” said Vincent Alvarez, President of the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

“As healthcare workers, the members of our union know how important the Earned Sick Time Act is for the public health of our city. This law will allow hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers to stay home and recover from illness or take care of their sick child without fear of losing a paycheck or their jobs. The law is especially important for those workers who prepare our food and take care of our children. Paid sick days are also good for employers in the long run and our overall economy,” said George Gresham, President of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the largest healthcare union in New York and the nation. “Studies have shown that paid sick days actually make workers more productive and businesses more efficient, and help to prevent epidemics like the flu strain that hit the East Coast this past Fall and the H1N1 crisis of 2009. We will continue to work with our sisters and brothers in this coalition to expand the law and make sure more workers are covered in the coming years, and advance a progressive vision for our city.”

“This is a monumental victory for workers across this city. It will insure that working families do not have to choose between their jobs or their health. More than 1 million workers will no longer be afraid of being fired for taking a sick day. I applaud everyone who worked tirelessly to reach a deal and doing right for workers in our communities throughout the City,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

“The New York Paid Leave Coalition applauds the leadership of Council Member Gale Brewer and Speaker Christine Quinn and the entire Council for their historic vote today to make paid sick days a reality for nearly 1 million workers. The bill will provide job protection for all workers, and create a pathway to ensure paid sick days for nearly all workers in the future. We are proud of the robust and diverse coalition built over the past four years that has fought long and hard to win economic security for New York’s working families,” said Donna Dolan, Chair of the New York Paid Leave Coalition.

“Because of this, life will get a little bit better for a whole lot of people in our city. Every worker, every small business owner, every advocate, every donor and every labor leader who spoke up and organized for this over the last 3 years is right to be proud. Nothing good ever happens without a struggle,” said Bill Lipton, Working Families Party Deputy Director.

“Speaker Quinn has shown, once again, why she is such a great leader. She has supported small businesses during very difficult economic times, and has listened to our concerns continually throughout the process. No one is ever going to get 100% of what they ask for, but in this case, Speaker Quinn was able to achieve a laudable goal while mitigating many of the financial hardships this bill could have cost small businesses. We applaud her efforts and support her decision to bring this matter to a close,” said Queens Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jack Friedman.

“In the course of the four years we have been working on this bill we heard from countless workers who lost their jobs because they needed to care for a sick child, who couldn’t pay the rent because they got sick or who dragged themselves into work sick because they couldn’t afford to lose a day’s pay.Thanks to the tireless efforts of our coalition, the city council and our sponsor Gale Brewer those things will never again happen to workers in New York City,” said Sherry Leiwant, Co-President of A Better Balance.

“Physicians, nurses, health aides, and public health advocates pushed for this bill in the heat of the summer, the freezing cold of winter, during flu season and allergy season, and every time in between,” said Dr. Sepideh Sedgh, Executive Vice President of the Committee of Interns and Residents/SEIU Healthcare. “We did so because the public health case for paid sick time couldn’t be more open-and-shut. We look forward to the full implementation of this bill and the difference it will make in the lives of the patients we see every day.”

“Today, nearly a million working New Yorkers are one critical step closer to having paid sick leave, and 1.3 million workers will gain job protection, when they choose to care for themselves or a family member when sick. This legislation will finally provide New York City’s workers, especially those who are low-income workers of color, with this much needed benefit. This is a matter of economic justice, racial justice and basic human rights. This is a long-awaited event for this city’s working families, and the New York Civil Liberties Union urges the City Council and Mayor Bloomberg to take the final step in completing this historic moment – pass the Earned Sick Time Act,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU).

“Our annual Unheard Third survey first identified the widespread lack of paid sick time among New York’s low-wage workers, and our subsequent research documented the consequences: lost pay, lost jobs, more sick kids in schools and higher health care costs,” said David R. Jones, President and CEO of Community Service Society. “We are proud that our research and advocacy helped fuel a movement that today will result in a law that will ensure that nearly a million more workers will no longer have to give up their paychecks when illness strikes and no worker will be fired for missing a day’s work because they need to take care of their own health or a family member.”

“This law will be a monumental step forward for workers throughout New York City. More than 1.3 million workers will no longer need to fear losing their jobs when they, or their children, get sick. More than 1 million workers will get paid sick leave benefits. I congratulate the many courageous workers who stood up and fought for what’s right, and the many Council Members, particularly Gale Brewer and Speaker Quinn, for making those workers vision a reality,” said Andrew Friedman, Executive Director of Center for Popular Democracy.

“It’s been a long fight, but today the New York City Council heeded the call of New York families and passed a bill that would allow more than a million New Yorkers to earn paid time off to use when they are sick or to take care of sick child, spouse or parent,” said MomsRising Executive Director Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner. “It’s now Mayor Bloomberg’s turn to stand up to corporate lobbyists, listen to the people who elected him, and sign this important bill into New York City law.”

“New York’s working families should not have to choose between providing care to their families, or themselves, and job security. Paid Sick Time (Days) improves health outcomes and helps reduce health care costs for all — families and communities. The Public Health Association of New York City (PHANYC) supports Paid Sick Time (Days),” said Michael Hernández, President-Elect, PHANYC.

“The faith community welcomes the vote and presumed passage of Paid Sick Days in NYC – it is fully in keeping with our communal mandate of providing care to the ill and infirm and justice to workers. It represents an important step toward creating the Beloved Community here in our city,” said Rabbi Michael Feinberg, Executive Director, Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition.

“Today will be remembered as a day when New York City moved one step closer towards justice for working people. NYCC members have fought long and hard to see this commonsense legislation come up for a vote and we are thrilled to see it happen at long last,” said Jonathan Westin, Executive Director of New York Communities for Change. “This is a happy day, but it’s also bittersweet, as we remember Felix Trinidad a member of NYCC who passed away last summer from stomach cancer. Even when sick himself, Felix was a tireless advocate for paid sick days and for the rights of his co-workers and workers everywhere. This legislation will save lives, and make our city a healthier and more fair place to raise our families.”

“Thousands of NYC ColorOfChange members raised their voices and demanded Speaker Quinn finally put the paid sick time bill to a vote,” said ColorOfChange.org Executive Director, Rashad Robinson. “Today, we applaud the NYC Council on their historic passage of the bill. Nearly a million mostly Black and brown, and low-wage workers are one step closer to no longer having to choose between caring for themselves or loved one in the event of an illness and missing a day’s pay — or worse, being fired. Now its time for Mayor Bloomberg to stand up to the city’s business elite, and sign the critical bill into law.”

The landmark bill will ultimately provide paid sick time to nearly 1 million working New Yorkers who currently have no access to paid sick time when they or their family members are ill. Beginning April 1, 2014, private sector workers in businesses with 20 or more employees will be able to earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time a year. Beginning October 1, 2015, the business size threshold for paid sick time will be lowered to apply to workers in businesses with 15 or more employees. In addition to providing paid sick days for all domestic workers, the bill will ensure that workers, even in the smallest of businesses, cannot be fired for taking a day off when they or their loved ones are sick.

The NYC Paid Sick Days Campaign is a broad coalition of low-wage workers, women’s rights advocates, healthcare providers, small business owners, labor unions and community organizations who have been working to pass paid sick days legislation in New York City for nearly four years.

Lawmakers and business leaders around the country are supporting paid sick time as a policy that strengthens the economy by keeping people in their jobs. This March, Portland, OR became the fourth city to adopt paid sick days. Philadelphia’s City Council voted 11-6 to expand existing sick time protections to the city’s entire workforce. Statewide bills are moving forward in Vermont and Massachusetts.

These recent wins and active campaigns build on past victories in Connecticut, which passed the first statewide law in 2011, Seattle in 2011, Washington DC in 2008, San Francisco in 2006, and a November 2012 ballot initiative in Long Beach, California granting sick days to hotel workers. At the federal level, Rep. Rosa DeLauro and Sen. Tom Harkin introduced the Healthy Families Act this month, which would set a national sick days standard.